Here’s how to take care of your Houston home

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We recently gave you some tips on buying a new home in Houston. Thinking about it further, we realized that this list wasn’t entirely complete. Yes, all good information, but we know firsthand that buying a home isn’t even half the battle. Once you’ve landed your new house, what then?

For first-time homeowners, it can be daunting. There is so much to think about and like when a baby is born, there is no instruction manual. Here you are completely on your own. So let us help you with a few things to consider after buying your home.

Pay for good insurance.

Insurance is nothing but peace of mind…until you need it. Then it is a safety net. Know what your reporting entails. For example, some coverage protects you from leaks under your foundation. Some not. Check it out thoroughly and ask an expert for help. It can be the difference between a $9,000 roof replacement and a $250 deductible for the same issue. And don’t skimp. Buy more than you think you will need. In this case, trust us.

Prepare for disasters.

Good insurance helps a little, but even if you’re not in Houston’s official “flood plain,” you should get flood insurance. As a friend told us, “Having been flooded without it, I would now get flood insurance even if I lived in the middle of a desert.” Nothing is more catastrophic than flood when it comes to damaging a home. And in Houston, it could happen anytime. While you should have a checklist of what to do when it comes to preparing your home for a hurricane, remember that water usually does far more damage than wind.

Get a home guarantee plan and customize it to suit your needs.

On the homeworld, there are mixed feelings about house guarantees. Some consider them a waste of money, but for first-time owners, they can be a lifesaver. However, make sure they match what you need. If you have brand new devices that are under warranty, you don’t need coverage for them. However, an older home or pool may need a little more than normal. Search for the best prices and plans that suit your home.

Learn more about your neighborhood (and neighbors).

Of course, this should be on your home buying checklist, but even if you’ve already bought it, it pays to know the ins and outs of your range hood. Familiarize yourself with the deed restrictions (if you have any). In Houston, they can mean the difference between your choice of house color, whether or not you can have solar panels, where to store your trash cans, and whether you can have a boat. Deed restrictions can range from non-existent to goddamn dictatorial. And get involved if you can, so you know what to expect from those in charge. Not all homeowners’ associations are full of weird little trolls peering over your fence looking for violations, but good to know if that’s the case.

And while we’re on the subject, get to know your neighbors. The sooner the better. Walk over and introduce yourself. You don’t have to love everyone who lives near you, but if your electricity goes out and your neighbor’s doesn’t, they’re much more likely to lend you an outlet to keep your fridge running if you’re neighborly.

Budget for repairs, even for a new home, and don’t procrastinate if you can avoid it.

When real estate agents talk to you about costs, they rarely include anything beyond your mortgage. They could talk to you about taxes and insurance, but no one tells you how expensive it is to own a home beyond paying your mortgage lender a month. Keeping a home in good condition is complicated. Even with new houses something goes wrong. Older people are even more prone to problems. And much, if not all, is not covered by insurance or home warranties.

When planning your budget, assume that repairs will account for about half of what you spend on your mortgage, taxes, and insurance. That might sound like a lot, but if your air conditioner goes out in August, you’ll be glad you were prepared. And when repairs are due, get them taken care of as soon as possible. They tend to pile up and steam you down. That one piece of siding that needs painting could be hiding wood rot that could suddenly blow your problems beyond what you can handle.

click to enlarge

This could be your home after a hurricane. Be prepared!

Photo by Margaret Downing

Remember that the cost is increasing every year and it’s always more than you think.

Another thing nobody tells you is that while your mortgage may be fixed (hopefully you don’t have an adjustable rate mortgage), your taxes and insurance definitely aren’t. And the older your home gets, the more repairs it will require. It’s also worth noting that if you pay escrow, it depends on how much you paid for taxes and insurance last year. If your property value goes up, not only will your taxes and insurance go up, but you’ll likely have a shortage in your escrow account because the costs have gone up and you’re getting a bill from the mortgage company on top of everything else. Just be prepared.

Have a good list of reliable repair services (if you don’t have one, ask around).

An experienced homeowner always keeps a list of plumbers, electricians, and other home repair professionals handy. You need people you can trust to get things done for you as soon as they arise. Sometimes it’s as simple as replacing an electrical outlet or freeing up a toilet. Other times, you’ll need an experienced HVAC technician to diagnose a more serious problem. If you don’t know anyone who does, reach out to your neighbors or make inquiries online. It’s a great way to find expert help.

Oh, and if you’re so inclined, check out some YouTube videos on how to do minor repairs yourself. Get yourself a decent tool and get to work. But don’t electrocute yourself in the process.

When evaluating your new home, check five critical areas.

These are the most costly and complicated issues to deal with, and if you’ve owned your home for more than five or six years, one is bound to come off your radar, so be prepared.

Foundation, endowment
Watch out for cracks in the wall that just appeared or closet doors that suddenly don’t close as well as they used to. If you suspect a foundation issue, address it immediately.

roof
Hail damage can often lead to leaks. Sometimes you won’t even realize you have a leak until your ceiling collapses. Have a roof inspection after a storm and schedule a replacement every 15-20 years.

HVAC
Heaters are important, but if your air conditioning goes out in the summer…ugh. This is probably your biggest electricity bill too. The more efficient and functional your system is, the better.

electric
Nothing will ruin the home of your dreams like an electrical fire, not to mention the danger to you and your family. Have those wires and your control box checked.

installation
Old pipes often start out with small pinhole leaks that you may not even notice. But eventually they can burst and cause a huge mess. Re-piping is a nuisance and costly, but often necessary at some point in your home’s life.

Bonus: termites
If you have purchased a wood frame home, especially one with a post and beam foundation, an annual termite inspection is a must. You don’t need the beams that support your house to suddenly turn to sawdust.

Don’t be too ambitious too soon.

Moving from an apartment to a house often means you need more and newer furniture. You might also want to give your bedroom a fresh coat of paint or soundproof your new recording studio (is that just us?). Whatever you want, take it slow. Remember that there are many costs that come with owning a home. Set yourself sensible goals and a budget for the first year or two. Once you’re in a better place and know what the costs are, you’ll have plenty of time to put this Eddie Van Halen mural on your office wall or set up an entire room of tiny furniture for your dogs. It’s your house, go crazy!

Your garden is also part of your home.

Often overlooked, garden maintenance is important not only for the beauty of your home, but also for protecting your home from damage during a storm. Trees should be checked and pruned by a professional every year. Nobody wants a tree rotting from the inside to fall on their house during a hurricane, but it happens. You should also do things like make sure your beds aren’t above the baseline around your house. When this is the case, water can seep between the foundation and your home, seeping under your floors and making a huge mess. The outside of your home is more than just the structure, it’s your entire yard!

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